Simnel Slice

Or, as I like to think of it, simnel cake without the cake for those who don’t like fruitcake, but still want the utter excellentness that is marzipan at Easter. Making your own pastry is entirely optional and will save you an hour ish of making / chilling time (but it’s not hard to make). Nibbling leftover bits of marzipan is, however, obligatory. Serves 11.

Not for woofers

Ingredients

Pastry:

1 block ready made sweet shortcrust

or

250g plain flour

125g cold unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

75g icing sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 large egg yolk

Frangipane:

100g soft unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg

100g ground almonds

1 tsp almond extract

Plus:

225g marzipan

4tbsp ish apricot jam

125g dried mixed fruit

50g icing sugar + extra for dusting

Method

Pastry:

  1. The easiest way to make the pastry is to fling the flour, butter (dice it) and the pinch of salt into a food processor and pulse until it looks like sandy breadcrumbs. Then add the icing sugar and lemon zest and pulse again.
  2. Next, beat the egg yolk with 3 tbsp as-cold-as-you-can-make-it water and add 3 tbsp of this to the mix, pulsing again until it starts to form clumps – you might find you need to add a little more.
  3. Or, rub the butter into the flour until you form fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the salt, icing sugar and lemon zest, finally mixing in the egg/water mix with a fork until the dough starts to comes together.
  4. In either case, use your hands to pull the dough together completely, wrap it in cling film and chuck it in the fridge for a good 30 mins minimum until it firms up. Try not to over handle it at this stage or you’ll end up with tough instead of crumbly pastry.
  5. If you’re using ready made pastry, join in now! Roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm and line a 23cm (ish) round tart tin – use a loose bottomed one or you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble later.
  6. Gently press the pastry into all of the grooves, but leave the overhang hanging for now. Prick the base all over with a fork and pop it in the fridge for another 30 minutes to firm up again.
  7. Heat oven to 160C fan and put a baking tray on the shelf below the one where you will put the pastry case, to catch any bits that drop off during this initial bake.
  8. Line the pastry case with a piece of baking paper that you’ve scrunched up to soften it a bit, fill the case with baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the beans and paper and bake for another 7 minutes. There will be no soggy bottoms here! Leave to cool completely, then trim off the excess pastry. Do not remove from the tin.

Frangipane:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar using an electric handheld whisk or freestanding mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in the cinnamon, egg, and almond extract.
  2. Switch to a metal spoon and fold in the ground almonds. Set aside briefly.

Construction / baking / finishing:

  1. If you turned your oven off, turn it back on, still at 160C fan.
  2. Spread the apricot jam over the base of the cool pastry case (still in the tin).
  3. Chop 75g of the marzipan into pea sized pieces and scatter in the case, along with the dried fruit.
  4. Dollop the frangipane on top and smooth over, then bake for 35-40 minutes until the top feels just about firm.
  5. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  6. Mix up the icing sugar with a tiny slurp of water, adding a little more if needed to make a relatively stiff icing. You want it to hold its shape, just, when you drizzle it off a spoon.
  7. When the tart is cold, either pipe or drizzle over the icing, then top with the rest of the marzipan after rolling it into 11 balls, and dust with a little extra icing sugar.

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